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Qualcomm’s Linux-driven robotics kit taps Snapdragon 865

Jun 17, 2020 — by Eric Brown 2,197 views

The 96Boards-compatible “Qualcomm Robotics RB5 Platform” runs Linux and ROS 2 on a Qualcomm QRB5165 based on the 15-TOPS Snapdragon 865 with optional 5G and cameras including RealSense and ToF.

Qualcomm and Thundercomm have followed up on last year’s Qualcomm Robotics RB3 Platform with a similarly 96Boards form-factor Qualcomm Robotics RB5 Platform that supports 5G communications and input from up to 7x concurrent cameras. The Linux and ROS 2 driven development kit advances from a Snapdragon 845 to new custom robotics SoC called the Qualcomm QRB5165 based on the Snapdragon 865. (In other news, Qualcomm announced a 5G-ready Snapdragon 690 SoC for mid-range phones.)

Qualcomm Robotics RB5 Platform Core (left) and Vision kit versions
(click images to enlarge)

Pre-orders are available for the $495 Qualcomm Robotics RB5 Core Kit, which comprises a 96Boards carrier and a separate compute module suspended on risers. You can also buy a $695 RB5 Vision Kit, which adds a vision mezzanine add-on with tracking and main cameras. Options include Intel RealSense and ToF cameras and a sensor add-on.

Robotics RB3

While the RB3 platform was primarily aimed at terrestrial robots, the RB5 is also being marketed as a drone platform. Applications include unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), and inspection, inventory, industrial, collaborative, pick-sort-place, retail, healthcare, cleaning, and first- and last-mile delivery robots.


The Qualcomm Robotics RB5 Platform ships with development tools for Yocto or Ubuntu Linux with Robot Operating System 2 (ROS 2). These include a Hexagon DSP SDK and Qualcomm Neural Processing and FastCV Computer Vision SDKs, which together enable the following features:

  • Object tracking, detection and classification
  • Object depth and avoidance
  • Face detection and recognition
  • Scene classification and understanding
  • Gesture and hand tracking
  • Voice activation and audio classification
  • vSLAM (visual localization and mapping)
  • Visual inertial odometry (VIO)
  • Path planning and 3D map formation
  • Obstacle avoidance
  • Deep learning

Qualcomm QRB5165

The Qualcomm QRB5165 is built around the 7nm-fabricated, octa-core, Snapdragon 865. The four fastest cores are Cortex-A77 based Kryo 585 cores clocked at up to 2.84GHz. There are also 4x Cortex-A55-like Kyro cores clocked to 1.8GHz.

Available Snapdragon 865 features include a 587MHz Adreno 650 GPU and a much-improved Hexagon 698 DSP. The DSP features a 15-TOPS Hexagon Tensor Accelerator NPU compared to 7 TOPS on the Snapdragon 855.

Other Snapdragon 865 features include the Spectra 480 Image Signal Processor (ISP). The ISP can process images at 2-Gigapixels per second, enabling Dolby Vision video capture, 8K video recording, HD slow-motion video @ 960fps, 200-megapixel photos, and simultaneous capture of 4K HDR video and 64-megapixel photos.

The Qualcomm QRB5165 adds an Engine for Video Analytics (EVA) technology that works with the ISP to handle Computer Vision (CV) tasks. EVA enables processing of 7x concurrent camera inputs with simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM), object detection and classification, autonomous navigation, and path planning in complex indoor and outdoor settings.

The Qualcomm QRB5165 integrates a FIPS 140-2 certified Qualcomm Secure Processing Unit with secure boot, cryptographic accelerators, Qualcomm Trusted Execution Environment (TEE), and camera-level security. Finally, the SoC adds support for –30 to 105°C temperatures and offers optional lifecycle support until 2029.

Qualcomm Robotics RB5 Platform

The Qualcomm Robotics RB5 Platform comprises a carrier board and a compute module holding the Qualcomm QRB5165 and 8GB LPDDR5, expandable to 16GB. It is unclear if the 128GB of UFS 3.0 storage is located here or on the carrier.

The carrier is listed as 96Boards compatible and part of the 96Boards.AI initiative. The board has the same 85 x 54mm footprint as a 96Boards CE board, but offers more low- and high-speed connectors.

Qualcomm Robotics RB5 Platform compute module (left) and Vision kit version with Panasonic ToF camera
(click images to enlarge)

The RB5 is equipped with a microSD slot, a GbE port, and dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac with Bluetooth 5.0 with antennas. There also appear to be options for a Qualcomm FastConnect 6800 Subsystem with Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), a 4G LTE modem, and a Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF System.

The board is further equipped with 2x USB 3.0 and single USB 3.0 Type-C, micro-USB 2.0 debug, and HDMI 1.4 ports. The carrier provides dual speaker amps, a TDK PDM mic, and more microphones available via mezzanine daughtercard add-ons. There is also a TDK accelerometer with gyro and barometric sensors, as well as 11x LEDs (4x user controllable) plus a 12V @2.5A adapter and power, volume, boot, and dip switches.

RB5 mainboard reverse view showing 96Boards expansion interfaces (left) and I/O available on the connectors
(click images to enlarge)

The carrier has 3x 60-pin high-speed mezzanine connectors and 3x low-speed connectors: one with the standard 40 pins and the other two with 46 (see chart above). Two the 60-pin connectors offer 4-lane MIPI-CSI for camera connections.

For $200 more you can buy the RB5 Vison Kit, which adds a vision mezzanine board and a 12.3-megapixel main camera with a Sony IMX577 sensor that supports 4K@60 video capture. There is also a 1-megapixel, 1280 x 800, black and white Omnivision OV9282 camera for tracking and 2x FPC connectors.

There is also mention of SERDES derived GMSL technology. GMSL cables can extend up to 15 meters and support bi-directional data, power, and control through without losing latency.

Accessories include a $199 Intel RealSense D435i depth camera, which also appears to be available as an option for the Core kit, and a $65 Panasonic V4T ToF (Time-of-Flight) camera for 3D imaging, which requires the Vision kit. There is no price yet for an upcoming TDK Sensor Mezzanine option.

Qualcomm says there are already 20+ early adopters of the kit, and that shipments of products based on or augmenting the RB5 are due later this year from more than 30 ecosystem partners. These include 96Boards, Acontis, Adlink, AirMap, AirServe, Airtonomy, AlwaysAI, Augmented Pixels, Autocore, Autoware Foundation, Canonical,, DreamVu, Dronecode,, GlobalEdge, Innominds Software, InOrbit, Intel RealSense, Lantronix, Linaro, LiteOn, Kudan, ModalAI, Nod, Open Robotics, Panasonic, PathPartners, Pilot.AI, Shoreline IoT, Slamcore, TDK, Thundercomm, and Tier IV.

Many of the partners provided testimonials, with several promising specific robotics products based on the kit. “The cutting edge 4G/LTE, 5G, heterogeneous compute, AI, camera, and security technologies integrated into the Qualcomm Robotics RB5 platform will enable us to create the next generation autonomous drones,” stated Abe Bachrach, chief technology officer, co-founder, Skydio, Inc., which bills itself as “the leading U.S. manufacturer of autonomous drones.”

Further information

Official sales for the Qualcomm Robotics RB5 Platform will begin in late July, but pre-orders are available now from Thundercomm with an undisclosed ship date. The Core kit costs $485 and the Vision Kit costs $695. The kit’s compute module will also likely be available in volume, and Qualcomm and Thundercomm will work with customers on customization options.

More information may be found in Qualcomm’s announcement, as well as the Thundercomm product/shopping page and Qualcomm product and developers pages.

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